A Bar Reborn

The old Sand Dollar Lounge is now Bar 702, thanks to the Spike TV show Bar Rescue coming to town last month. The show’s star, Jon Taffer, goes from city to city finding struggling bars, which he then turns around by building them out, sprucing them up and improving the way they do business. He changed quite a few things in converting the old-school blues-playing Sand Dollar into the more upscale Bar 702—although it kept the best of its old self, namely the live music. But what’s changed the most is the video poker.

The Sand Dollar has 14 bar-top machines, but just wasn’t a place that gamers frequented. Fact is, players weren’t going there because there wasn’t much reason to. That’s all changed.

When a bar wants to alter its profile with gamblers, there are two ways to do it: improve the promotions or improve the payouts. Bar 702 chose to do the latter, and it’s now one of the loosest video poker bars in town.

Whereas a typical Las Vegas bar has video poker schedules that top out at a 97 percent payback, every machine at 702 has games returning 98.8 percent (Deuces Wild Bonus) and 99.11 percent (9/7/5 Double Bonus). Those are good, but they aren’t the best here: You can also find 9/6 Jacks or Better (99.54 percent), 15-8 Loose Deuces (100.15 percent), and 10/7 Double Bonus (100.17 percent)—all but unheard of for a bar.

How can they do it? Mathematics. Regardless of the high returns, almost all of the games still pay back less than 100 percent overall, which means that the advantage remains with the house. Still, the better returns produce more interim payoffs that allow players to play longer, and in turn, hit more royals. The winners win more and the losers lose less, but the bar still makes a profit. As a result, for the most part, everyone is happy.

Bar 702 is at 3355 Spring Mountain Road, just west of Interstate 15 at the corner of Polaris. It opens in the evenings at 4 or 5 p.m. and closes around 6 a.m., with Lisa, Bobby and others who will be in the TV show working the bar. Next door is an outstanding Vietnamese restaurant called Pho Bosa that has a service window in the bar, and there’s usually the Good BBQ Catering truck out front with top-notch pulled pork, brisket and hot links.

Bar Rescue also shot at Gypsy and the Hammer, but Gypsy doesn’t have gaming and the machines weren’t the focus of the show at the Hammer. Hence, Bar 702 is the only one that got the video poker makeover. The show airs this summer and is sure to drive plenty of business. Now that you know what the sizzle is, check it out before the crowds get there and test-drive the new games.